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Last year, we highlighted some of the key customer service trends to watch in 2018 and many of them came to fruition. The shift in perception of AI and automation was arguably the most significant. Once a thought of the distant future, many companies began adding these concepts to their workflows and roadmaps.

Once again, for the third year in a row, here are 7 customer service trends to watch in 2019…

1) B2B self-service will become more interactive – Thanks to an increase in on-demand video content in their personal lives, customers are more frequently asking for the same in the business world. As a result, more companies are doing less telling through text and more showing through interactive guides and customer service video content to get messages across.

2) Basic live chat isn’t good enough anymore – Having only basic chat on your website was becoming outdated last year and moving into 2019 it’s even worse. Customers increasingly expect chat solutions to be extremely fluid, switching between mediums (text, video, screen sharing) as needed on the fly without being forced to change applications or start over.

3) Companies are becoming truly proactive – The days of sitting around waiting for customers to contact you are in the past. Instead, it’s becoming the full responsibility of the company to let their customers know about the problems they have before they even notice. Companies can do this by monitoring the interactions every customer has and assessing/analyzing the sentiment behind them. Often referred to as “customer health monitoring” or a similar term, this proactive approach is the difference between good and great customer service.

4) AI will become less artificial and more a part of “real” customer service teams – Modern service software now leverages the true power of AI and not gimmicks like simplistic chat bots to lure in customers. These solutions are incorporating AI from the ground up not to stand on its own as a replacement for human agents, but to aid them in working smarter and more efficiently. Examples include sentiment analysis, predictive chat, and distress scoring.

5) Deflecting tickets will continue to increase in priority – Customer service teams are trying new ticket deflection solutions to reduce the amount of routine interactions they process. By implementing real-time solutions such as suggested links in live chat based on the written description of the problem (think Google instant search results), customers are increasingly able to answer their own issues without needing to submit a ticket.

6) Personalization not only at the contact but the company level – Too often, customer service teams have taken the B2C approach of focusing on personalizing interactions at the contact level. In the B2B industry, this focus is also being applied at the entire company level. Customer service teams now have direct visibility into company accounts and can add information including customer size, languages spoken, hours and holidays, preferred service method, and much more for all agents to see.

7) The rise of “customer success” – More companies are beginning to understand that customer service is more than just reading scripted responses and working on a ticket queue. It’s about doing anything and everything possible so your customers are successful with your business. This mentality is leading to a rise in “customer success” within companies that dedicate the time and resources necessary to keep customers happy. The new emphasis on the customer has also led to reduced churn and more positive third-party feedback.

Click here to download our whitepaper on why it's important to kill scripted responses!

We hope you found these trends valuable! The common over-arching theme with the trends this year relates to using technology to communicate better than ever before with your customers. This means conversing directly and indirectly across different mediums while creating conversations with a high amount of customer knowledge in your hands. By optimizing when and how you speak to your customers to meet their wants and needs, you’re bound to have a successful year!

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It’s no surprise that AI (Artificial Intelligence) is really starting to make an impact in the customer service industry. How companies interact with customers is being strongly influenced by this emerging technology. Sure, the “chat bot” comes to mind immediately, but even that has taken a backseat to larger uses of AI which still involve (and improve upon) the human element.

Customers often seek out service because they have a problem and they want a person to empathize with them and make it right. Even with extremely sophisticated AI, a chat bot won’t be able to relate to a human experience, especially if it’s fueled by an emotional attachment.

So, how is AI changing the customer service industry to enable agents to make these human-to-human moments more impactful? Here are a few ways…

Less reliance on manual processes – In the past, large customer service teams needed a “ticket routing agent”, or an employee assigned to route tickets based on their contents. When customer service software first became commonplace, this ticket management role was all but eliminated and tickets were assigned randomly. This then evolved into tickets being assigned based on automation rules (i.e. all tickets with “server” in the title went to Janice). But now, with AI, the contents of a ticket can be analyzed to not only pick up the meaning of the ticket – outage, broken product, and more – but also the tone (frustrated, satisfied, angry). This type of AI can help tremendously in getting a ticket to the right person from the start.

More informed agents – Before AI was directly involved in customer service, it was difficult for agents to obtain information that was relevant to them and their role in a company. Unless you had a stellar team that tagged every single ticket perfectly, key information would get misclassified or lost through the cracks. With the help of AI, it’s now becoming more common to see software solutions that automatically tag, categorize, and index tickets for easy reference. So, the next time there’s a weird issue with a software integration, a quick ticket tag search will be all that’s needed for an agent to educate themselves.

More intelligent responses – AI isn’t just helping with customer information, it’s also working to make agents better at conveying their messages to customers. Some customer service software solutions are implementing forms of grammar and spelling assistants to improve the written word skills of their employees. For example, instead of saying “it’s getting there”, the AI may suggest “we are completing” or a similar phrase that comes across as more professional.

Less tickets created in general – We’ve already discussed how AI helps with routing, categorizing, and responding to tickets. But how can it help with avoiding the creation of tickets in general? One of the new and innovative ways AI is being used to deflect tickets is by creating chat recommendations in real-time based on the contents of a chat before it’s submitted. For example, typing “I need to reset my password” into chat will suggest self-service links about resetting log-in information right in the chat window.

Click here to download our eBook on mastering self-service with B2B customers!

Increased customer expectations – The last way has nothing to do with the capabilities of AI technology. Instead, it’s rooted in the ever-changing customer psychology. The bottom line is customers are now becoming used to living in an AI world. Companies that don’t incorporate some sort of AI into what they do stand out, and not in a good way. It’s making solutions that once felt sophisticated feel dated, and changing customer perspectives on how they view the businesses they choose to work with. It means more times than not, companies that are utilizing AI in service are seeing happier customers.

To summarize, AI is changing the customer service industry because it makes employees smarter and improves communication. It’s raising the bar for how companies talk to customers and what is and isn’t worthy of creating a ticket. In the future, expect AI to be even more closely knit with service agents so they can create better customer experiences.

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When it comes to the specifics of working with customers, you’ll see a wide variety of terms thrown around. Phrases such as “customer care”, “customer support”, and “after-sales service” are all frequently used, but there are a few terms that truly stand out in their meaning (despite the confusion surrounding them).

These phrases, “customer service”, “help desk”, and “customer success” are among some of the most commonly used phrases in the industry. Yet, although they all seem like synonyms, they really have different meanings. Let’s evaluate each one and decipher them…

Customer Service – Truly an ageless phrase that has been around forever, the concept of “customer service” is very simple. Basically, you as a company provide one-off service to a customer as needed. The complexity behind the term is solely placed in the hands of the customer. A customer service team often works with simple problems, such as instructing a customer how to access a software feature. However, especially in the B2B (business-to-business) industry, these problems can be extremely complex, sometimes taking multiple experts across different departments to solve. The “customer service” term is popular among more high-touch industries such as luxury products.

Click here to download our whitepaper all about customer service and how it can help grow your business!

Help Desk – On the surface, “help desk” seems very straight-forward. But it’s really one of the more confusing phrases in customer-focused industries. Why? Because technically there are two types of help desk teams – internal and external. An internal help desk team is not focused on the customer at all and solves issues for employees within an organization, such as installing updates to a work computer. It’s the external help desk team that focuses on customer problems and is more closely aligned with customer support. The “help desk” term in general is usually tied to technical industries because it’s often associated with IT terminology.

Customer Success – Lastly, customer success is just that, focused on doing anything and everything within your power to ensure your customers are successful. The relationship that customers have with your business is managed by this team. The big difference between “customer success” vs customer service or help desk terms we just talked about is that a success team is not the first line of defense for customer problems. You wouldn’t normally contact a success manager and expect the person on the other line to directly fix your issues. Instead, they are a liaison that can work channels internally to leverage a customer service or help desk team. They own the entire relationship and are a knowledgeable advocate for customers to contact so their issues or concerns are accurately conveyed internally.

In short, while “customer service” and “help desk” do share some similarities, they are quite different both in the industries used and how they relate to customers. The term “customer success”, which is being grouped with these terms more often, is not really a synonym and instead takes a step back from directly resolving problems to focus more on the state of the overall business relationship with the customer. While all three terms certainly have their place in customer-focused industries, businesses should take a moment and ensure they are using the correct terms for their employees and departments. Likewise, it's important to know the terms so you can determine which business software solution is appropriate for your needs. 

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